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How to Safely Replace an Electrical Outlet

One of the easiest home repairs to accomplish is the repair of an electrical outlet in a home. The trouble often lies with people not taking the necessary safety steps to ensure no injuries to the outlet or the installer during the process.

The first step is to turn off the electrical breaker that powers the outlet you are replacing. If there is any question about which breaker is serving the outlet in need of service turn off the main breaker to the home. An alternative is to plug a light into the top and bottom outlet and turn the breakers off one by one. When the feeding breaker is thrown, the lights will go out. Hint: The majority of home outlet breakers are 15 AMP.

If there is no power to the outlet or the outlet is malfunctioning, the electrical repairs will need to cease until a circuit tester can be found. The circuit tester is a small tool with a metal end that will tell the installer if there is power to the outlet. If no circuit tester can be found – throw the main breaker to the home.

The electrical outlet repairs can begin once the power to the outlet is shut off. The front cover of the outlet needs to be removed with a screwdriver and the outlet will need to also be removed. There should be a screw on the top of the outlet and the bottom of the outlet that will need to be removed. Pull out the outlet and notice the two wires in the back (may be three if there is a ground wire). These should be white and black with the optional ground wire being copper colored.

The neutral wire will be white and the wire feeding electric to the outlet will be black. With a piece of masking tape – mark the position of the wires on the old outlet. This may help you to replace the wires on the new outlet. Remove the wires from the old outlet and discard. Attach the wires to the new outlet in the correct spots. Some new outlets will have marks on the back denoting where the wires need to go. Remember – white is neutral and black is hot.

Once the wires are secured on the new outlet – screw the outlet back into the socket and place the outlet cover back in the original spot. Tighten the outlet cover screws and flip the power breaker back on. If the electrical repairs have been completed correctly – nothing will happen. If the wires have shorted or the outlet is wired incorrectly the breaker will immediately pop back off and rewiring will be needed.

After the breaker is securely on and not tripping – plug a light into the outlet to make sure the electrical outlet repairs are done correctly and smile because you wired an outlet without an electrician.

When working with electricity it is important to check and recheck the security of the wires. If there is any doubt that the wires are secure – stop and contact an electrician to complete the job. While it may feel great to do it yourself – safety should always come first.

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